We commenced the term with our annual ANZAC Service. This year, I spoke about the history of the ANZACs at Gallipoli, and then focussed on a number of individual soldiers in the famous photo of the 11th Battalion A.I.F. on the Great Pyramid of Giza, taken on 10 January 1915 personalising that the casualty statistics are more than just numbers. We then spent some time talking about the battle that was also on 25 April, but this time, in 1918.
Australian soldiers had spent many months stationed in and around the French town of Villers-Bretonneux during 1918. The Germans tried to take the town from the Allies during the first few days of April 1918, but were unsuccessful. They tried again in the early hours of 24 April, and this time they took it from the British. Later that day six Australian battalions were hastily moved to the area and charged with the task of retaking the town. The counterattack launched by the Australians was risky: there was no artillery barrage before the attack to soften the German defences, and it was a night manoeuvre across territory that had not been properly reconnoitred. But by dawn the Australians had possession of the town. This battle is often referred to as the turning point of the war — the counterattack at Villers-Bretonneux saw the end of the successes the Germans had been enjoying during the early months of 1918. 1200 Australians died at Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April 1918.
Such was the respect and gratitude that the townsfolk of Villers- Bretonneux had for the Australians, they tendered the graves of the soldiers for years after the battle. Back in Melbourne, John Monash was elected President of the Victorian Villers-Bretonneux Fund.
Returned soldiers were also involved in the hands-on fundraising for Villers-Bretonneux. A special ‘French Week’ of fundraising activities and events was hosted in Melbourne in September 1921. The money raised was partially used to help rebuild the School ruined in the battles at Villers-Bretonneux.
In a moving story of shared kindness, when the Black Saturday Bushfires on the 7 February 2009 ravaged the Strathewen Primary School, the people of Villers-Bretonneux raised funds to help repair and rebuild the School.
Our students listened with respect of the stories of bravery and sacrifice of those so many years before.
House Cross Country
Our annual Junior School House Cross Country was held this morning, in perfect weather and with a large group of families and friends supporting our boys and girls. Our Preps, Years 1 and 2 displayed wonderful strength and resilience as they chased and passed ‘banana man’ around the lengthy course.
Our Year 3-6s then ran up to 2.8kms and once again, displayed wonderful grit and ‘personal best’ attitude.
Congratulations to Mansfield McKie who were the overall winners of both the Girls and Boys’ 2023 House Cross Country.
Adam Kenny | Head of Boys’ Junior School